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2007 Volkswagen New Beetle S Review

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Model: Volkswagen New Beetle S
Engine: 2.5-liter I-5
Horsepower/Torque: 150 hp @ 5000 rpm/170 lb.-ft. @ 3750 rpm
Transmission: 5-speed manual
Wheelbase: 98.8 in.
Length x Width x Height: 161.1 x 67.9 x 59.0 in.
Tires: 205/55R16
Cargo volume: 14.5 cu. ft.
Economy: 20 mpg city/28 mpg highway/20.2 mpg test
Fuel capacity: 14.5 gal.
Price: $17,630 (includes $640 destination charge)

The Bottom Line The New Beetle is a comfortable car to drive and ride in. Power is decent, handling is very good, economy is right on, and it’s surprisingly practical.

I’ve been fortunate enough to have been able to drive just about all the variations of the Volkswagen New Beetle – convertible, turbocharged, etc. What I hadn’t driven was the base version, without all the extras.

So when the New Beetle became available for one of my Carolina trips this summer, I jumped at the chance. As it turned out, we put more than 2,000 miles on the car over two weeks and I would gladly have driven it for more if the opportunity arose.

Yes, the New Beetle is a modern version of the Old Beetle. It still has the bug-like styling and if you’re not careful, you can’t tell whether it’s coming or going. But under that iconic shape is a modern front-wheel drive car with a 5-cylinder water-cooled engine and, in our case, a useful 5-speed manual transmission.

I remembered my old Super Beetle that was noisy and not that economical. The new version is quieter, has decent power to get out of its own way and play with just about anything else on the Interstates, and has more room.

The 150-horsepower inline five is a good engine for this car. It’s transversely mounted under the front hood, which gives the New Beetle plenty of front leg room. The 5-speed manual shifted easily and smoothly. In fact, my wife was surprised when she discovered it was a manual, because most of the time my manual shifts are not smooth.

But still, it’s a Beetle, the instrument panel consists of a huge speedometer mounted in front of the driver, with a small tachometer now included. We also had digital odometer and trip meter.

The front seats were comfortable, and the tilt/telescoping steering wheel allowed the driver to make adjustments for maximum comfort. Legroom is excellent and headroom is phenomenal. Abe Lincoln, with his stovepipe hat, would be comfortable in the New Beetle.

Since it’s a coupe, rear-seat legroom is cramped, as is entry to the rear seat. Also, rear passengers don’t get to enjoy the tall cabin, because the roof slopes back sharply. The front seats tip up and forward to assist in rear-seat entry and egress, but it still ain’t great.

The rear seats fold flat to increase trunk capacity to a maximum of 14.5 cubic feet. Compare that to the Old Beetle folks! Still, the trunk was capable of handling most suitcases plus a few other items, so even with the rear seat backs up it wasn’t bad.

What impressed me most about the New Beetle was its comfort. We drove it long distances and for a long time, and at no time did our senior-citizen backs develop major aches. There’s a pump handle to raise or lower the seat and an old-fashioned knob to adjust the back angle. Both were close to my ideal when the car was delivered, so major adjustments weren’t necessary.

I remember when I bought my Super Beetle (used), a VW executive said the model year I was getting didn’t have the larger dash but was still wide enough “to put a plastic Jesus up there.” In the New Beetle, the dash area is large enough to put the real one there if you want. This space could be used to better advantage with a modern pop-top cubby, rather than just let it sit as black space.

But except for a few small carping complaints, my overall impression of the New Beetle was good.

2007 The Auto Page Syndicate